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Special People Celebrating Spatial Things

GIS Day 2004

Every day GIS technology continues to be a lifesaver, helping people find solutions and make the decisions that affect our world. Whether it is being used to support hurricane relief, track the spread of the West Nile virus, or define electoral districts, GIS is serving our world and making it better each day. There is one very important thing to keep in mind though—GIS does not work alone. It takes thousands of talented GIS professionals, concerned citizens, and willing students to make these things happen.

Sponsored by the Houston–Galveston Area Council Geographic Data Committee, Houston, Texas' GIS Day 2004 activites included guest speakers and exhibitors from government agencies, colleges and universities, and the private sector sharing their GIS knowledge, projects, and experience.

The following are just a few examples of the many events that were held this year as GIS Day 2004 once again showed us the dedication of these special people everywhere.

Texas Shines on GIS Day

Sponsored by the Houston–Galveston Area Council Geographic Data Committee (GDC), Houston, Texas' GIS Day 2004 festivities shined during the two-day event, held at the University of Houston–Downtown campus on November 18 and 19. Kicked off with a special opening ceremony presentation from keynote speaker Frank Billingsley, a weatherman from the local Houston TV channel KPRC, the day's activities included various guest speakers and exhibitors from government agencies, colleges and universities, and the private sector sharing their GIS knowledge, projects, and experiences. Attendees were shown how city officials use GIS to map bus routes; create neighborhood protection plans; and maintain street centerline, sewer, and utility information.

Dedicated as GIS Kids Day, day two saw more than 400 students from area high schools attend and participate in various hands-on GIS Internet lab sessions and GPS demonstrations, as well as presentations from more than 40 exhibitors. Students were also able to participate in a Test Your GIS Knowledge game, which included a lighted buzz-in answer board with rapid-fire questions. New to this year's agenda was a special mentor program designed to link ArcView software-trained teachers, interested area high school students, and local GIS professionals to work together on GIS projects ranging from simple maps to more complex undertakings.

This was not the only event held in Texas this year. More than 30 other groups celebrated GIS Day 2004.

Searching for Clues in Lewiston, Idaho

Recipients of the 2002 Community Atlas Award, Lewiston High School students are no strangers to GIS Day. Participating early this year on October 7 and 8, these high school students who started their research as seventh graders were led by mentor Steve Branting, a teacher with the Gifted and Innovative Programs, to use GIS Day 2004 to continue their search for the answer to a question that keeps on changing.

Just when Branting's students thought they had discovered the truth about a mass grave in the city's cemetery, technology reminded them of what Will Rogers once said: "It's not what we don't know that gives us trouble. It's what we know that ain't so."

Ground penetrating radar surveys (conducted in July 2002) conclusively disproved all reports of a mass grave for unidentified remains from the old cemetery that had been abandoned in the 1890s.

Not to be thwarted, Branting and his students redirected their fieldwork to the old site, now a city park. After months of traditional historical research, they brought several advanced technologies to bear on the problem, which included surveying the site with radar and magnetic induction, fixing anomalies with submeter GPS to plat the suspected grave rows, and preparing for the possibility of controlled exhumations.

For more information, visit

Kerala, India

Dr. N. Saifudeen, associate professor and head of the Kerala Agricultural University in Kerala, India, was also busy hosting a GIS Day event this fall. The daylong seminar held for the students and faculty of the College of Horticulture featured sessions to discuss how GIS technology could be used in a variety of disciplines, including agriculture, forestry, veterinary science, and banking. A GIS quiz competition was also conducted to encourage awareness of the school's GIS programs.

GIS Day on the Islands

The American Samoa GIS Users Group held its GIS Day 2004 event at the American Samoa Community College in Pago Pago on November 17, 2004, from 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Open to the public, the event provided a venue to display the many GIS activities being performed by various American Samoan government agencies.

The GIS Day Committee would like to thank these organizations and the many others that participated in GIS Day 2004, helping to make our sixth annual celebration another global success!

Remember to submit your GIS Day 2004 photos and success stories to the GIS Day Web site ( GIS Day 2005 is scheduled for Wednesday, November 16—be sure to mark it on your calendar today.

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